These three questions will help you take your children’s ministry from optional to an oasis in your community.
I traveled to Ndola, Zambia, for the first time in 2011 to serve alongside local pastors and leaders. While I learned a lot on this African ministry adventure, there’s one lesson I’ll never forget. Nearly everywhere we visited, I kept seeing people all gathered just a stone’s throw from a church’s front door. What were they doing? Gathering fresh, clean water.
I was amazed at the way God was using wells and water towers to draw people of all ages in droves toward him. Pastors had strategically placed their community water sources and the church doors together. So quite literally, these Zambian churches have made the shift from being optional to becoming a life-giving oasis for kids and families.
Is your church’s ministry to kids and families just one of many good options available to them each week? Or do people consider you an oasis—a vital, life-giving environment where they get physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met?
Upon returning from Africa, it grieved me to think that “optional” churches are probably relatively ineffective at family ministry. Without a gripping reason to engage, moms and dads keep driving by. This reality challenged me to wrestle with what needs to change for a church to become an oasis for families.
As it turns out, installing a watering hole just outside your church’s entryway isn’t always necessary to draw kids and families toward Jesus. However, every ministry can and must figure out how God wants them to address families’ physical and emotional needs as well as spiritual ones. Here are three questions to consider.
What do kids and families in your community need most?
While your church isn’t called to tackle every issue hitting kids and families, you’re uniquely located in the world and this point in history to make an eternal difference. What challenges do kids and families in your area face? Find out their greatest needs by talking to leaders in the school districts, hospitals, food pantries, police departments, and other churches. Then start praying about where to begin.
What can your church serve kids and families in surprising ways?
Everyone expects churches to provide worship services, Bible teaching, and fun activities. But what about after-school tutoring, college savings workshops, discounted childcare, family meal nights, marriage counseling, special needs support, preschool parent meetups, single-parent discipleship mentors, and grandparenting ministry? Once you figure out the biggest needed in your community, the sky’s the limit when it comes to meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in unique ways.
Which kids and families are you committed to reaching first, and when?
Investing in all kids and families is ideal—but impossible. It’s better to begin by focusing your attention for now and expanding your reach later. Take time as pastors and leaders to pray, brainstorm, decide, and get your commitment on the calendar. In time, you’ll shift from optional to becoming a life-giving oasis for kids and families.
Dan Lovaglia is the author of Relational Children’s Ministry (Zondervan). He equips church leaders nationwide through writing, speaking, and training. Connect on Twitter and Facebook: @DanLovaglia.
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